Sake brewery tours for overseas visitors provide global showcase
The Japanese government and the Japanese alcoholic beverage industry are seeking ways to sell more Japanese liquor, especially refined sake. Alongside the organisation of sake brewery tours for interested overseas tourists, the Cabinet Office is calling together those interested in the promotion of Japanese sake exports, and new initiatives are being implemented to promote exports of refined sake, other spirits, wine, and awamori liquor.
Sake brewery tours linked to Cool Japan
For the last few years, the Japanese alcoholic beverage industry has been engaged in “sake brewery tourism”, attracting overseas visitors with an interest in refined sake. These involve a relaxing overnight stay at a hot-springs ryokan after a tasting tour of nearby breweries. The tours are a Cool Japan initiative.
For about a decade, Cool Japan has been part of the Japanese government’s strategy for promoting the monetization of Japanese culture. It involves the re-evaluation and re-affirmation of Japan’s attractions, with the aim of securing an economic profit from culture-related industries, as well as ensuring that the world understands the value of Japan’s soft power.
Travel agents in Japan, notably The Japan Tourist Bureau, have been offering sake brewery tours for a number of years, and the tours are apparently increasingly popular with tourists from the US, China, Korea, and Australia.
Constantly rising refined sake exports
Based on Japan's Ministry of Finance foreign trade statistics, the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association reports that Japanese sake exports have risen more or less consistently since 2001, doubling from 7,052 kilolitres in 2001 to 14,131 kilolitres in 2011. Over the same period, exports to the US have risen from 1,853 kilolitres to 2,828 kilolitres, and those to South Korea from 82 kilolitres to 2,828 kilolitres.
The main destinations for refined sake exports are South Korea, Taiwan, and the US, but the National Tax Agency also reports a sharp rise in exports to Australia (fourth-ranked destination, a 423% YoY rise) and to Russia (eleventh-ranked destination, a 1370% YoY rise).
On March 28, relevant ministries met to discuss promotion of exports of Japanese refined sake, other spirits, wine, and awamori liquor, and determined to strengthen information provision and brand creation and to put more emphasis on overseas events. Sales of Japanese alcoholic beverages are to be promoted in combination with Japanese food, sake ceramic ware, and regional culture.
In addition, a Japanese version of SOPEXA (the French marketing and communication consulting agency specialised in promoting food and drink) is to be created to help strengthen export promotion activities, such sake marketing and trade negotiations. Moreover, it is hoped that promotional activities in the media and with buyers of imported wines will expand the appeal of sake among wine drinkers. Thus, the government is supporting an increase in opportunities for overseas tourists and others to learn about sake, not least via brewery tours.